The Results, Reshuffled

As we wait for the final results this coming week and the beginning of coalition negotiations, this post is an attempt to present the outcome in a few different ways, taking things beyond the basic party level.

Government 78 (+2) vs Opposition 72 (-2)

Let’s start with the breakdown which is the easiest to explain: government vs opposition. When the VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie signed their coalition agreement in 2017, together they had 76 seats in the Tweede Kamer, the smallest possible majority. Thanks to the gains of VVD and D66 more than offsetting the losses of the CDA, this configuration could continue for another term with an increased majority. The last time this happened was 1998, when D66 lost 10 seats, but coalition partners PvdA and VVD gained 8 and 7 seats respectively, and thus the Purple government under the leadership of Wim Kok (PvdA) continued for another term. This kind of thing seems less likely today – but I’m going to write a full post on coalition negotiations later this week, so I’m keeping my counsel until then.

Quadrants (Conservative-Left, Conservative-Right, Progressive-Left, Progressive-Right)

It’s almost impossible to plot Dutch political parties on a left-right spectrum without a lot of qualification, so I’ve opted for a quadrant system: and even this by no means perfect. Dutch politics is so layered ideally you’d want to create some kind of three dimension model to be able to plot all the parties correctly.

Conservative-Left (PVV, ChristenUnie, 50Plus): 23 (-7)

Conservative-Right (VVD, FvD, CDA, SGP, BBB, JA21): 65 (+9)

Progressive-Left: (SP, PvdD, GroenLinks, PvdA, Denk, Bij1): 36 (-9)

Progressive-Right (D66, Volt): 26 (+7)

Before I go any further, I’d just like to emphasise that each of these categories is still pretty broad: for example: the ChristenUnie and 50Plus are far closer to being centrist than the PVV, and D66 and Volt are only moderately to the right economically speaking in my judgment. I’m basing these on what the Kieskompas (an online political quiz) claims, with a bit of modification where I disagreed with where the party was placed. Full disclosure: I moved ChristenUnie from a moderate Progressive-Left to a moderate Conservative-Left position, and D66 with Volt across from Progressive-Left just over the border to Progressive-Right.

In any case, the results are pretty clear: the right-wing parties made gains at the expense of the left, with a smaller gain to the conservative forces if you cut the chart that way. The main reason why it isn’t easier for forces on the Conservative-Right to put together a coalition is because PVV and FvD are under a cordon sanitaire, and JA21 is currently quietly being assessed as to whether it should be added to this list. This sends 25-28 seats to the opposition benches before negotiations even begin.

Insiders 90 (+) vs Outsiders 60 (-)

Insiders (VVD, D66, CDA, PvdA, ChristenUnie, SGP): 90 (+2)

Outsiders (PVV, SP, GroenLinks, FvD, PvdD, JA21, Volt, Denk, Bij1, BBB, 50Plus): 60 (-2)

Another way to frame this would be parties which have either governed in some form at the national level, versus those who have only been on the opposition benches. There two exceptions to this categorisation: the PVV and the SGP. The PVV were in a supply-and-confidence agreement with the VVD and CDA from 2010 to 2012 before Wilders withdrew his party because he did not want to support elements of that year’s budget. You could argue that this was governing, and in a way it was. However, while Geert Wilders himself is very much an insider in the Binnenhof, he positions his party as that of an outsider in order to appeal to his base. In hindsight, it is clear that the agreement with VVD and CDA was probably doomed to failure once the PVV didn’t become fully-fledged members of the coalition with ministers and all the accompanying responsibilities.

The SGP on the other hand, helped prop up Rutte II (VVD/PvdA) when defections saw the coalition lose its majority. It became part of the “Constructive Opposition” alongside D66 and ChristenUnie, giving Rutte’s cabinet the numbers it needed to pass legislation through both chambers of parliament.

Some of the outsiders could end up moving to the insiders column after a while, particularly Volt if they hang around. But as they’re new and have no governing experience at any level, they stay in the outsider column. GroenLinks is keen to move across to the insider column, but may have messed up their chance for the time being by not participating in the last government when invited to do so by D66. Traditionally the SP has not been particularly interested in governing, especially where the VVD is involved, but that might be shifting. For the insider parties, the more the merrier, because it makes coalition-building a lot easier, but sometimes making the jump from outsider to insider is more than a party and its members can handle.

European Parliament blocs

European People’s Party (EPP): CDA, ChristenUnie

Socialists and Democrats (S&D): PvdA

Renew Europe (formerly ALDE): VVD, D66

Identity and Democracy (ID): PVV

European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR): JA21*, SGP

European Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA): GroenLinks

The Left (formerly European United Left/Nordic Green Left): SP**, PvdD

*The FvD has no seats in the European Parliament any more – the three MEPs it elected in 2019 have joined JA21.

**The SP lost all its MEPs in the 2019 election, but normally it sits in this bloc.

As for the new parties, I can make a few educated guesses. Currently Volt has a German MEP who sits with the Greens/EFA, but I imagine the pan-European party would aim to have their own bloc in the future. Bij1 could sit with the Greens/EFA or The Left, probably the latter. Lastly, the BBB is tricky; I expect they’d be inclined to be independent at first, but might end up in the EPP – it’s difficult to say for certain until we’ve seen more of their positions.

This is probably the more useful way to look at the results for other Europeans. I haven’t put seat numbers next to the parties because I don’t want people to confuse them with the numbers in the European Parliament, which are of course different. However, it’s pretty clear that the parties in Renew Europe were the big winners of the election, and we’ll have to wait until 2024 to see what FvD can reclaim from its breakaway group JA21.